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Lt. Robert Milby
Fire Coordinator Rich Bond
LYONS – Be skeptical, be practical, do some planning and be safe.

Those were the messages that came out of a three-hour “Stay Safe” seminar offered to a senior citizens Friday at the Wayne County Fire Training Building.

County officials provided examples, dispensed advice and answered questions about fire prevention (even discussing hazardous clothing). They discussed the latest scams targeted at those of grandparenting age, and things to do when going on a long vacation – like to Florida or Arizona.

Fire Coordinator Rick Bond listed home hazards that can turn into home tragedies:

Kerosene heaters – “Where do you fill your heating appliance?” he asked. “When is the last time you checked the wick? You need to know how to fill the appliance and where to store it.”

Amanda’s Law – Carbon monoxide detectors are required by the law that went into force in February. Bond said installation is especially important in a multi-family dwelling where “what you do in your portion of the dwelling affects everyone.”

In cases of rental properties, it is the landlord’s responsibility to provide the detectors.

He said fire departments will respond if a resident suspects a carbon monoxide problem, and test the air. RG&E and NYSEG may also be called.

Bond suggested if you’re taking care of someone who has a heating appliance, make sure you have a 24-hour call number in case of a problem.

Nightwear – Bond warned about loose-fitting nightwear near a stove or open flame at breakfast time. “This clothing is made of cotton and nylon and burns in a hurry,” he said. ”Be concerned with what you’re wearing when you’re around an appliance.”

Candles – “These have become a bigger and bigger problem for us in the county,” he said. He urged caution in placing candles – not under lampshades, for instance, and not on countertops with doilies.

Home Inventory – “How many of you have experienced a fire in your home?” he asked. “After your fire, you’re not going to remember when an insurance agent asks you what was in your dining room. Are you going to be alert enough to remember when your home is a pile of rubble? After the fire is too late.”

After a fire, he said, “everyone wants to know a piece of your tragedy – the insurance people who will be in your face, the fire investigator. After a fire is the hardest time.”

His advice was to make an inventory of home contents, put important documents in a high-quality fire safe or a safe-deposit box, and take pictures of belongings and rooms. “You can’t do enough to be prepared,” he said.

Fire extinguishers – Bond said to get fire extinguishers appropriate to your need in size and function. He urged buying metal-to-metal (cylinder to nozzle fixture) types because they last longer and are less prone to leakage.

“Check your fire extinguisher,” he said. “Insects like to build nests in the nozzle. Make sure it’s not plugged. Check the gauge. Shake the extinguisher – if there’s any powder coming out of the nozzle, get the extinguisher checked.”

When using an extinguisher on a fire, activate the extinguisher, approach the fire straight on, “and know where your exit is. Never turn your back on a fire.” If you don’t know how to use the extinguisher or don’t know what kind of fire you have, call 9-1-1.

Home Evacuation - Bond urged audience members to have a home escape plan and assembly point…and to practice. If a smoke alarm goes off and the door to your room is closed, don’t open it without feeling for warmth first, starting at the floor. “If the doorknob is hot, you’d better have another way out.”

Ashes – Disposing of ashes led to five fires last year, Bond said. People putting hot coal-stove ashes in a plastic pot and then putting the pot in the garage, flower bed or deck – all spelled disaster for different families. “The radiated heat from that container is going to start a fire,” he said.

Extension cords – He pulled a tangle of plugs and wires out of a box – the cause of a fire that started in a teenager’s bedroom. Bond urged proper use of extension cords and suggested they not be covered by a rug (where you might have a fire and not know where it is) or put in a high-traffic area so cords get stepped on and destroyed.
Kitchen fires – “They all start small,” he said. “But they get big, and big in a hurry.” He urged people to take a look at what’s around a stove – inflammable liquids (oils,wine)? towels or hot pads? Curtains?

“Don’t reach over a burner to get a potholder,” he said.

Smoke Detectors – Bond suggested replacing smoke-detector batteries twice a year, when the clocks need to be changed. If a detector goes off too often, it may be in the wrong place. These “nuisance” smoke detectors are a big problem – homeowners get tired of the things going off, and take out the batteries.

He suggested dusting smoke detectors because dust, humidity and spiders can clog them.


Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Bob Hetzke spoke about some of the recent scams in Wayne County, many targeting older residents.

Most of the scams are by phone, where “somebody is offered something for a heck of a deal.” Some involve a check being sent to you involving excess funds, which you’re asked to return. An eBay scam is to ask you to complete the deal off eBay. Some residents are getting real-looking checks in the mail but asked to pay a processing fee to be able to cash them.

“They get you on the hook and then it costs you more and more to play it out,” Hetzke said, warning that con artists will resort to elaborate ruses – including a phone call from an “FBI agent.”

He warned repeatedly that credit-card statements should be checked every month for new or unexplained charges. Department of Aging and Youth Director Penny Shockley also warned that phone bills may also be collecting improper charges from third parties.

Hetzke said another scam is a call from someone stating that a grandchild has been arrested or is in the hospital – and needs money immediately. “I’ve seen two of those this month,” he said.

The deputy sheriff also cautioned about good deals that have to be consummated right away. “Wait a day to buy that boat,” he warned. Any questions or suspicions, “Give us a call. We know some of these guys are banging people hard. They’re very good. If you’re not careful, you’re going to get stung.” Hetzge also said he knew of no police agency or fraternity doing any phone solicitation.

Safe Home

Lt. Robert Wilby of the Sheriff’s Department Road Patrol told the audience the county offers a “dark house check” for people who are away on vacation or business for an extended period. “Call 9-1-1 and we’ll come by as often as possible to check on your house. We’ll stop at different times of day as long as you’re gone. There’s no better deterrent than watching a patrol car coming through the neighborhood.” Officers will do a walkaround.

Other tips for seniors who snowbird:
  • Put timers on lights
  • Have someone come by to tidy up and remove circulars, shoppers from your porch
  • Install motion lights around the house, especially on the porch and at the back door
  • Plow your driveway
  • Use a sturdy stick to keep patio doors closed and secure
  • Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway or have someone move your car
  • Put security screens on windows
  • Stop or have someone pick up mail
  • Tell a neighbor or family member where and how to reach you
  • Use the sheriff’s department to hold firearms for you while you’re away – there’s no charge.


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